Sometimes—rarely, but sometimes—the New York City–ness of New York City stops for a few moments. You receive some terrible or wonderful news, or there’s a blackout, or snow falls in big, fat flakes in the night. You know that feeling. It’s exactly this exquisite stillness that’s explored on Tayatha, a new collaborative album from the Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo and the Russian pianist Anton Batagov. On the record, Batagov paints whole worlds on the piano, through which Lhamo’s voice moves and furls like wind; it swoops and soars, occasionally quivering with the fascinating flourishes that typify Tibetan music.
Both musicians are Buddhists, and when they first met, they talked for five hours straight; they improvised musically for the first time when a blizzard hit New York. “Our collaboration was unusual for both of us, and was a very meditative experience,” says Batagov. “I am a classically trained musician. Yungchen doesn’t use notated music, which makes her a very intuitive musician. I can’t explain how it happened, but we found different sides of the same language.”
Tayatha is not in the least bit New Agey. It uses a minimalistic sonic palette that fans of Terry Riley and Philip Glass will appreciate, inviting the listener to experience a kind of lights-out dazzling darkness in which a far vaster world seems to appear. The image of a perfectly clear lake is often used as a metaphor for the mind in meditation, its stillness reflecting the pure truth of its surroundings and revealing its depth; this music conjures just such a picture, with the odd finger trailing through the water to create a delicious ripple.
You have two chances to see Lhamo and Batagov perform together, at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City on Sunday, and a week later as part of the Bang on a Can marathon in Manhattan. Arrive on time, then lose it.—Sophie Harris
Follow Sophie Harris on Twitter: @SophieMeve